Student and administrators meet for open forum on proposed fee increases
Feb. 25. 2014
More than 50 students attended the first open forum discussion between students and administrations about proposed student fee increases last Monday.
Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga, Director of Health and Counseling BJ Aldrich, Director of Athletics Gary Gray and Director of the Wood Center Lydia Anderson met with students in the multi-level lounge to discuss the fees. Gray, Anderson and Aldrich gave short presentations on how their proposed fee increases would benefit students and the departments.
The directors and their respective departments, are currently proposing a $10 fee increase for Wood Center and $5 increase for Health and Counseling, and a $2 fee increase for Athletics.
“Our mission is to be the ‘living room’ of campus,” Anderson said. The fee will go to helping aid the cost of the addition to the Wood Center.
“It goes directly to the student athlete experience,” Gray said, “This is the way we can remain competitive.”
Students were concerned about how much money would be contributing to athletic scholarships. Although no one asked during the forum, Gray could not give an exact number on how much of the Athletics budget went to scholarships when the Sun Star asked after the forum.
Approximately 20 percent of the athletics’s budget goes to scholarship, the department confirmed later in the week.
“I don’t feel that I, as a student who works and pays for my tuition, that I should ever have any fees that I’m paying for go toward another student’s education,” said Courtney Enright, a mechanical engineering student and student regent.
Despite some of the tension that arose during the forum due to students not having microphones, some administrators and students think it was still a positive experience.
Sfraga thought the forum was both good and bad. He said it was good because it opened up a dialogue between administrators and students. He said he couldn’t remember that happening when he attended UAF in the early 80s.
The directors had spoken to him about fee increases a few years ago, according to Sfraga, and now it had come time to increase them.
Sfraga decided to have the forum after hesitating to send a memo to the Office of the Bursar to include in next year’s catalog for fee costs.
“It seems wrong that we just put it in a catalog and students find out about it Aug. 28. That just seems wrong to me,” Sfraga said.
Enright thought it was good but that students should have been notified ahead of time.
“It certainly was a dialogue to an extent,” Enright said. “It was perhaps to a lesser extent than a traditional forum because a decision was already made. We were having a dialogue more about repercussions or concerns.”
Enright said she doesn’t think the forum was advertised to convey that, but that it became clearer as the forum continued.
“The notification, I think, lacked. It could’ve been far better,” Sfraga said.
that there is a small gap between administrators and students, but thinks it is necessary. “If the gap becomes an abyss, that’s really bad and we try not to make that happen,” Sfraga said.
“I am really committed to the separation between administrators who run an institution and student groups,” he said.
After the meeting, Sfraga spoke with and made a commitment to ASUAF senate chair Daniel Strigle to have further notice in the future and notify student government in the future about potential increases.
Sfraga has already emailed the ASUAF Office Manager and Advisor Anne Williamson, information on what he is willing to commit to, according to Strigle. He and ASUAF President Ayla O’Scannell plan to meet with Sfraga in the upcoming weeks to confirm and possibly expand Sfraga’s commitments and get an agreement in writing, according to Strigle.
Updated Feb. 18, 2014 at 1:32 a.m.: The original article reported the wrong amount in which the fees would be increased. Corrections have been made. The Sun Star apologizes for these errors.